CHARLOTTE - The Atlantic Coast Conference wants to find a city that will embrace and support its struggling football championship game.
Charlotte thinks it's the spot, and the heavy hitters from the city's business community lined up Wednesday to woo commissioner John Swofford.
Former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl, Quail Hollow Championship chief Johnny Harris and others vowed that Charlotte will impress the ACC enough through ticket sales and auxiliary events for the 2010 and '11 title games that the league will not need to return to Florida, where the game has struggled to draw fans.
"It ought to be here in Charlotte," Harris said in a news conference at Bank of America Stadium. "Our pledge is to make this not only a game, but make it an event."
The game has been mostly a flop since it's creation in 2005, and Swofford said he had no problems with creating a permanent home. The key will be if Charlotte can do what Jacksonville and Tampa have not: sell tickets and generate buzz.
"We're looking for that consistency of local support that basically gives a base so that the game from an attendance standpoint is going to be successful regardless of the location of the two teams that play in it," Swofford said.
The ACC began its football title game in Jacksonville after expanding to 12 schools. It drew 72,749 in 2005, then had announced crowds of 62,850 and 53,212.
The ACC pulled the game out of Jacksonville, giving it to Tampa in 2008 and '09 and Charlotte for two years after that. The crowd last year was announced at 53,927, but the turnstile count was about half that.
The ACC has been hurt by poor weather, unexpected matchups that have included a team from Florida only once, and not having schools in the national title picture. Boston College has played in the game the past two years. A similar small, private school, Wake Forest, played in the 2006 title game.
Charlotte, though, is a more central location, with eight schools within 300 miles. With Meineke Bowl director Will Webb also managing the ACC game, there are plans to sell ticket packages and have other tie-ins. Swofford said they're finalizing a deal that would guarantee the ACC team in the Meineke Bowl could not be the loser from the ACC championship game.
Webb said the ACC will be in charge of selling or distributing 22,000 tickets to the teams, conference officials and sponsors. Charlotte officials hope to sell the rest to local and regional fans to fill up the nearly 74,000-seat stadium.
"I know Charlotte will embrace this event," McColl said. "We don't do anything in Charlotte halfway."
Swofford said it remains uncertain if the best option for the league is to rotate it to different cities, like the Big 12, or keep it in one spot, like the Southeastern Conference does in Atlanta.
But it's clear after a history of attendance woes a couple of big crowds in Charlotte in 2010 and '11 would likely keep the event in town.
"If you develop that base locally, then you're less dependent on the two teams that may be playing in the game," Swofford said. "If it goes well, that would be a huge plus in the determination of whether or not we've found a home for the championship game."